Archive for the ‘Life and Ministry’ Category

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people. Philemon 1:4-7

Philemon,  I have to wonder if it is the least read of all the books of the New Testament.  It is unfortunate because it contains one of the most beautiful stories of redemption and reconciliation ever.  The story centers around three men, Paul the Apostle, Onesimus the slave and our subject today Philemon.  Philemon was a leader of the church that met in his home.  This was typical of the early church.  He was also a slave owner, specifically he owned a slave named Onesimus.

Strangely enough we are not going to focus on the theme of the letter, instead we are going to take a quick look at the man and the qualities that I find qualify him as a hupomone man.

People pray for him – Specifically in this case Paul.  However if the Apostle Paul remembered Philemon in his prayers I choose to assume that others were also. A true hupmone man inspires prayer by the example that he leads.

Paul’s words are very specific here.  “I always thank God AS I remember you…”  We might make the mistake of thinking that Paul here is referring to a prayer of thanksgiving for this wonderful man of God.  There would be nothing wrong with this but it is not what he is saying.  Paul is praying for Philemon as he continues his hupomone ministry in Colosse.

The placement of this phrase immediately following the greeting speaks of the importance that he knows Philemon places on this subject.  The hupomone man values prayer.  He values a life of constant communication with God (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and in this particular case he values the prayers of others on his behalf.

People talk about him – People talk about the hupomone man.  They don’t talk about the amazing “things” he has accomplished.  They don’t talk about all the books he has written.  They don’t even talk about the incredible ministry that he has built.  “I hear about your love for God’s holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus…”  They talk about his love for people and his faith in Jesus.  Now don’t get me wrong all of the hupomone men that we have discussed over the last few years in this blog were men of action, but it is the heart and soul that defines hupomone, not the results of that heart and soul.

He is willing to collaborate – Partnership comes naturally to the hupomone man. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. The Holy Spirit cultivates collaboration among God’s people, very often among people very dissimilar or with competing priorities.  Consider the struggles of Paul and Barnabas, the motley crew of the twelve disciples.  Jonathon’s future clashed directly with the anointing on David.  The spies at Jericho and Rahab had so little in common yet together they brought down a city and brought forth the Messiah!  These collaborations serve to deepen our understanding of the faith.

He cultivates joy and encouragement – If the joy of the Lord is his strength, the hupomone man likes to spread his strength around. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement. It is the essence of the Holy Spirit flowing out of him to those around that extinguishes fear with encouragement that is not tied to circumstances but to the source of all hupomone, God Himself.

He refreshes – The word that Paul uses here is the same word that is used to quote Jesus when he said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28.  The hupomone man is quite simply allowing the very basic qualities of his Lord and Savior flow out of him.  He calls out to those around him to cease their futile labors. Anapaow is an emphasized form of the Greek word for pause.  Literally it is an “up pause”.  The presence of a hupomone man brings “up pause”.

Paul gives us a snapshot of the hupomone man.  It is the mirror for Philemon to look into as he stepped into a personal and cultural challenge.  Onesimus, his slave/property had run away.  Potentially he had stolen from Philemon as well.  Somehow this run-away slave met up with Paul in Rome.  Onesimus became a brother in the faith and told Paul what had occurred.  Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon instigating a journey in faith and hupomone living for both of them.  Scripture leaves us to our own interpretation of the outcome of the journey, but church tradition tells us that some years later Philemon and Onesimus are martyred side by side proclaiming the Gospel message and establishing them both as hupomone men.

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“The Lord grant mercy to the house of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains; but when he was in Rome, he eagerly searched for me and found me – the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day – and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.” 2 Timothy 1:16-18

Everything that we know from the Bible about Onesiphorus is in 2 Timothy.  This is significant because Paul knew that his execution was near when he wrote this final epistle of encouragement to Timothy.  Orthodox tradition tells us that Onesiphorus was one of the 70 disciples sent out by Jesus.  These men were the second tier of intimates to Jesus after the twelve. Roman Catholic and Orthodox tradition holds that he was martyred in a town called Parium not far from Ephesus where Timothy served God, leading the church in that pagan city.

While we do not have a lot of details, Paul tells us volumes about this man Onesiphorus.  When I read these verses the picture of a Hupomone Man comes into focus.  Paul actually begins this passage with comments on two men who were not Hupomone men. When the going got tough in Rome Phygelus and Hermogenes got going….out of Rome or at least away from Paul.  Onesiphorus on the other hand “eagerly searched” for Paul knowing the difficult circumstances that Paul was in and the very real danger that association with Paul brought during this time.  This is the nature of the Hupomone man.  As God has brought me to study this idea I have found that by example in Scripture it far transcends the simple definition.

steadfastness, constancy, endurance;
in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings;
patiently, and steadfastly;
a patient, steadfast waiting for;
a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance

Unfortunately the concept has been too often hijacked to mean some kind of groaning endurance as we wait to be taken to heaven.  This is not what we find in Onesiphorus.  So let’s walk backward through this brief exposition on a hupomone man.

  1.  Eager

The hupomone man is eager to serve.  He understands the greatest commandments as Jesus taught them in Matthew 22,

“And He said to him, YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” 

This makes him eager to serve, eager to follow the hand of God wherever it leads, whether into the streets of poverty, the halls of power or simply to the side of a suffering fellow follower of Jesus.  Perhaps it is with Onesiphorus in mind that Paul penned this description of love, ” does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,” 1 Corinthians 13:5  The eagerness of the hupomone man is not born of self-interest.  Onesiphorus gained nothing by seeking out Paul.  In fact in may have begun the series of events that would lead to his martyrdom.  What do we search for eagerly?

2.  Unashamed

The hupomone Man is unashamed of the truth that has been entrusted to God’s people.  Onesiphorus was unashamed of the Gospel nor of the chains and danger that it brought.  There is a certain pride that is the hallmark of the hupomone man.  It is a pride born of the understanding of our position as Children of God.  It is a pride born of 1 Corinthians 13 love and grounded in the great commandments.  Paul raises up the relatively unknown man of God to Timothy, an example of the exhortation, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, ” 1 Timothy 1:8

3.  Refreshing

The Hupomone Man is a breath of fresh air in a dank and room, a ray of light shining in the darkness.  When one perseveres through hard times in the abundance of Christ there is an aura of refreshment that permeates the situation.  What amazing testament to this little known man of God, “for he often refreshed me…”.  This is a quality that Onesiphorus brought to even the most difficult situations.  It is the very nature of Jesus Christ shining through his children empowered by the Holy Spirit, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.

Paul ends this passage about Onesiphorus with “and you know very well what services he rendered at Ephesus.”  The hupomone man carries his qualities wherever he goes.  It did not matter whether he was on the streets of Ephesus or in the halls of power in Rome comforting Paul as the specter of execution hovered nearby, Onesiphorus was eager to serve, unashamed of the Gospel and brought refreshment to those around him.

 

 

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A Facebook Post from Allana:15747885_10157951910710282_1166937839466352526_n

Lifelong commitment is not what everyone thinks it is. It’s not waking up early every morning to make breakfast and eat together. It’s not cuddling in bed together until both of you peacefully fall asleep. It’s not a clean home and a homemade meal every day.
It’s someone who steals all the covers. It’s sometimes slammed doors, and a few harsh words, disagreeing, and the silent treatment until your hearts heal. Then…forgiveness!
It’s coming home to the same person everyday that you know loves and cares about you, in spite of and because of who you are. It’s laughing about the one time you accidentally did something stupid. It’s about dirty laundry and unmade beds without finger pointing. It’s about helping each other with the hard work of life! It’s about swallowing the nagging words instead of saying them out loud.
It’s about eating the cheapest and easiest meal you can make and sitting down together at 10 p.m. to eat because you both had a crazy day. It’s when you have an emotional breakdown, and your love lays with you and holds you and tells you everything is going to be okay, and you believe them. It’s when “Netflix and chill” literally means you watch Netflix and hang out. It’s about still loving someone even though sometimes they make you absolutely insane.
Living with the person you love is not perfect, and sometimes it’s hard, but it’s amazing and comforting and one of the best things you’ll ever experience.
Go ahead and share a picture of the person you love and copy and paste this, make their day.
I love this picture of Samuel Guidry it is perfect. a pic of Sami showing off the purity rings that Sam got her for her 16th bday.

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FIFM

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 2 Timothy 1:6

God spoke this verse to Allana and I back in 2003.  We had only been together a couple of years.  These were difficult years.  Allana had to adjust to being married, having two sons and caring for our little Sami.  Chayla was born in April and to top it off I was working crazy hours.  In the midst of all of that God was doing incredible things in our lives.  Fan Into Flame Ministries was born out of that crucible.  The idea would grow and be tempered over the years by moments of spirit led engagement and by intense personal suffering.  For Allana these days bore the fruit of True Beauty.  For me the focus became Hupomone (because I am a geek and Greek is cool) or Patience, Endurance, Perseverance.  Yet still, it continued to be at the core, the call to Fan Into Flame that gift, in ourselves and in others.

Let’s back track a little.

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus, 2 To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember * you in my prayers night and day, 4 longing to see you, even as I recall your tears, so that I may be filled with joy. 5 For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.

Paul takes Timothy down memory lane for a minute.  He reminds him that he is Paul’s son in the faith.  Why does Paul do this?  He wants Timothy to remember a very special moment in his life, the moment that he received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  The moment that God’s Gift was so graciously bestowed on a young man.  I have to wonder if Timothy didn’t tear up a little, thinking of his father in the faith facing death in Rome.  Perhaps he felt a little shame that the difficulties of ministry in Ephesus had worn him down.  Yet Paul tears all that away.  Striking to the core of Hupomone, without using the word, “Fan into flame the gift of God…”  There is nothing else that we can do to endure as children of God.

I have actually heard this verse taught as a call to utilize those very special and individual gifts that God has bestowed on each one of us.  However the context of the verses that follow this verse (not that He doesn’t desire each of us to serve him with all our gifts) make it clear that Paul is talking about one gift.  I will designate it the Gift.  The cool thing is that this Gift is the same for us all and yet manifests itself very differently in each of us.

7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

There it is, the Gift.  It is nothing less than God Himself given to each of us that believe and confess.  It is this Gift that makes us bold endowing us with power, love and self-discipline.  It is a special power available only through Jesus Christ.  It is power not as the world gives, or recognizes power.  It is the power to testify of Jesus and to stand with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  It is power that is inextricably joined to love.  Indeed 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that power without love is vain and useless.

8 So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God.

This Gift is one that empowers without limit, motivates in love and operates with self-discipline even as Christ Himself cried out in Gethsemane, “39 And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39  In a moment that the whole world around Him saw as the greatest weakness, Jesus exploded the chains of sin and death with the greatest demonstration of power, motivated by love and operating in Self-discipline as only God himself could.

9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

HE HAS SAVED US!  And called us by grace, a grace that is eternal.  But he did not just call us to a holy life and leave us to our own pitiful attempts.  He provided the Gift.  It is the Gift of revealed Grace.  It is the Gift of revealed Life Eternal.  It is the Gift of the Truth, the Gift of the Good News and Great Joy which shall be to all People.  It is the Gift that endows us with the same power that confounded the law and threw the world into confusion.  How foolish would we be not to fan THAT GIFT into flame in our lives.

 

 

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PurposeEzekiel was one far out dude.  I could focus on the wheels, sing about dem dry bones or wish that I could see the beasts of his prophecy in the zoo but I want to step away from the details of Ezekiel’s message.  Let’s focus on an aspect of Ezekiel’s life that make’s him another Hupomone Man.

Ezekiel was from a priestly family and like Daniel he was taken from his home in Israel and brought to Babylon.  His family was probably prominent and influential.  Ryrie places him among the many hostages that Nebuchadnezzar took to ensure the cooperation of his newly conquered land.  Unlike Isaiah and Jeremiah, Ezekiel prophesied to the Jews in Babylon.

As I read through Ezekiel this time around, I really tried to keep the words of the prophecies given to him by God out of focus.  I did not want to get caught up in the wonder and beautiful detail of Ezekiel’s dreams.  I really wanted to get a feel for Ezekiel the man.  This is perhaps most difficult to do with Ezekiel among those whom we term the Major Prophets as there is minimal historical detail.  With the details out of focus I began to notice a recurring phrase:  “Then you will know that I am the Lord”.  It takes some different forms, “and then you shall know that I am the Lord.”  The Holy Spirit whispered in my ear, “Hupomone Men have purpose.”.  Honestly it took me a bit to make the connection (I probably could have used Ezekiel’s help….connecting the bones of the thought together….ok ouch that was bad).

Ezekiel completely understood the purpose of everything that he said and did.  Speaking for God is not an abstract activity.  The life of the Hupomone Man is not an abstract activity.  It has purpose.  It really has one overarching purpose.  That purpose is to act, speak, write…to live in such a way that those around you can “know that He is the Lord.”  Peter put it this way, “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies, sot that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” 1 Peter 4:11

As Hupomone Men we can be sure that everything that happens in our lives is some how contributing to this purpose, either for ourselves or for those around us.  Ezekiel deeply understood this even as his wife passed away, there was purpose. ( I deal more with this particular story here. ) This is all part of our great assurance that God is in control.  We cannot, we must not allow circumstances to impinge on this great Peace that we have as children of God.  Ezekiel never lost sight of his purpose through all of the turmoil, through all the circumstances of his life.  He demonstrated Major Endurance and certainly earned the title of Hupomone Man.

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“Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting rock”

Isaiah 26:4

I have been reading the Major Prophets in my personal devotions.  Isaiah and Jeremiah, these guys were some Major Hupomone Men!  Depending on how you figure the history and do the math Isaiah spoke for God over a period of around 60 years!  Jeremiah’s career spanned about 40 years.  They were both fearless before men and absolutely devoted to God.  They both were despised and revered.  They were both threatened and abused for their devotion to the word of the Lord.  They are both honored by recognition in the New Testament.  Jeremiah is even called out as a potential identity for Jesus Christ.  Isaiah is recognized as the most prolific messianic prophet.  He foretold John the Baptist and his mission.  It was the book of Isaiah that the Ethiopian Eunuch was reading on his way home from Jerusalem.

So what is it about these two men that makes them truly Hupomone men?

 Isaiah and Jeremiah were both called by God to serve him and speak to the people for him.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  Jeremiah 1:5

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying,”Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”  Then I said, “Here am I.  Send me!”  Isaiah 6:8

The call of God on our lives is at the very core of Hupomone.  There is an illusion here that can trip us up.  It may appear to us that the Call of God on the lives of Jeremiah and Isaiah was about being a prophet.  Jeremiah is a little more explicit about the nature of God’s call on Jeremiah’s life.  While the call extends to vocation, it is not at its center about vocation. “And before you were born I consecrated you…”.  Jeremiah was set apart to be in relationship with God long before he ever delivered a Word from God.  We see Isaiah already positioned to hear the voice of God before he seals his vocation with the words, “Here am I Send me!”  

Paul lays out the course of Hupomone for a young pastor named Timothy

9 who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 2 Timothy 1:9

Hupomone begins with salvation.  It is only when we accept the extended hand of fellowship from God that includes a call to be separated or holy that we open the door to the steadfast, enduring lifestyle of abandoning our own purposes to follow God’s.  Paul makes it clear that this call is not about anything that we have done (or be extension anything that Isaiah or Jeremiah had done).  It is an undeserved gift.  It is grace.  In Ephesians Paul tells us that the very nature of this calling gives us hope “18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” Ephesians 1:8 

The kind of perseverance that we see rising out of the call of God comes about from having a view to eternity and to the inheritance of the saints, first to Israel in the Old Testament and then opened up to all humankind by the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

 

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 “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one word has failed of all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed”

Joshua 23:14

HUPOMONE

Definition:
-steadfastness, constancy, endurance
-in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings
-patiently, and steadfastly
-a patient, steadfast waiting for
-a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance

First off, I am not dying, well at least my demise is not imminent.  Though if this blog is your main form of connection to me you may have wondered….

Allana and I have talked for some time about starting a parallel men’s ministry called Hupomone Men.  I have been praying about this for awhile.  I think as Christians that line has become something of an avoidance mechanism.  I know that it has been for me.  True Beauty held its first conference this weekend and I announced the imminent creation of Hupomone.  So time to keep praying but take a step forward.

I have been in what has been perhaps the biggest struggle of my life over the last few years.  For five years my life has been one crisis after another.  First, after 7 miscarriages Allana and I were pregnant again.  For 3 months we prayed through our acceptance of an almost certain loss.  For 3 months God brought us into a new realm of trust (trust that would serve us well in the coming year).  For 3 months we rejoiced in God’s faithfulness to a promise made to Allana several years ago.  It was a promise that we thought we had misunderstood.  It was a promise that we thought we had to reinterpret. It was a promise that was birthed on December 16 2012 (Nisa Faith). Then we had 19 days of unfettered rejoicing, the promise come to life.  What a gift those 19 days were.  What a gift the whole journey was.  It was a gift of discipleship preparing us for the places that God would walk with us; for two years of emotional and physical agony as Allana battled Leukemia.  Two years of tremendous ministry in the face of adversity.  For three years we operated in the valley of the shadow of death.  It fostered great reliance on God for great and mighty things that literally meant the difference between life and death.

Read the end of Exodus and the book of Joshua.  This is where the Israelite people were when Joshua spoke the words above.  They had been through the crisis, their very existence threatened.  I am finding that “the crisis” forces an intense faith and closeness with God as well as a multitude of amazing ministry opportunities.  Even as God flooded my heart over the last decade with the need to “fan the flame of the gift of God” within me; through these times He has repeated the echoing refrain of Hupomone.  Perhaps the need is so great because we are not a society who values this.  We are the throw-away society.  If it is uncomfortable or inconvenient throw it away, churches, jobs, marriages, babies.  We are the disposable people.  We are all to often men of the disposable.  This is the very antithesis of our Lord and his desire for us. Perhaps the need is so great because I am a man of the disposable but by embracing the Holy Spirit in my life and fanning the flame that he has placed there I am just beginning to understand what it means to be a Hupomone Man with a Hupomone God.

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1

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